My research focuses on the evolution of complex reproductive adaptations, particularly placentation and superfetation. My goal is to understand (i) why these complex traits evolve (i.e. what ecological variables drive their evolution), (ii) how these traits evolve (what genomic and/or transcriptomic modifications underly their evolution) and, (iii) what the consequences of these novel adaptations are (e.g. for sexual selection, maternal-fetal interaction during development and transgeneration phenotypic plasticity). To study these questions, I perform comparative studies at the species (macro-evolution) and population level (micro-evolution), employing a variety of techniques including fieldwork in Costa Rica, behavioral/cognitive tests, physiological and biomechanical performance trials, anatomical and immunohistochemical studies (of primarily placenta and brain) and comparative genomics & transcriptomics.
In my studies I use fish from the livebearing family Poeciliidae, because (a) superfetation and placentation evolved multiple times in this family, (b) they are found in a broad range of different ecological habitats, (c) they have fast generation times and are easy to keep and breed in the lab, and (d) they are simply incredibly cool fish!